When I chose to stop drinking, I never knew it would last. What I did know was that I needed a change.
I was 27 years old with nothing to show for it and I barely recognized the person I had become. I had no real direction for my life and I felt lost — I was drained emotionally, physically and spiritually. Something was wrong, but I didn’t know what it was or how to fix it. I couldn’t keep going the way that I had been, but I realized I had to try something different. That was when I decided to try sobriety.
For me, the first year of not drinking was an emotional time with many ups and downs. It’s a period when you discover who you really are and see the reasons behind why you drank while also learning how to heal without abusing alcohol. Getting sober is a little easier when you know what to expect, so here are a few things you should be prepared for in your first year of sobriety.
First 30 days of sobriety
The first 30 days of sobriety might be the hardest. Depending on how you decide to stop using alcohol, you may be going through detox, attending addiction treatment or participating in AA or NA meetings. Regardless of which recovery path you choose, the first 30 days will be a rollercoaster. Your body will first be getting rid of all of the substances inside, and you may feel tired, sick and anxious. In my first 30 days of sobriety, I felt bloated and exhausted, and it was weeks before I began to feel well-rested and normal again.
On top of physical discomfort from alcohol withdrawal, you will experience strong emotions. Many of us turn to alcohol to numb our feelings, and I went for years without really feeling what was going on around me.
In the first 30 days of my sobriety, I cried, laughed and felt everything deeply — even my sense of smell was deeper. In your first 30 days, you can expect to slowly come out of the fog created by drugs and alcohol.
Three months of sobriety
When you reach 90 days of sobriety, you’ll likely feel a bit more relaxed. However, you may begin feeling sad and confused about your relationship with drugs and alcohol. Feelings of shame, guilt and depression are all normal, and these feelings can be worked through. You may also begin grieving the relationship you had with your substances of choice.
Throughout your first three months of sobriety, you’ll begin to learn new, healthier coping mechanisms. Sobriety will start to become a routine part of your daily life, and things like therapy and meetings can be incorporated nicely into your schedule.
Getting through each day will slowly become easier and more normal to you, and you’ll begin to find new hobbies that don’t include drugs or alcohol.
Six months of sobriety
The six-month mark is where you may begin to feel comfortable with your sobriety. However, this feeling of comfort can also be dangerous. It’s possible you’ll experience a phenomenon called the “pink cloud,” meaning you’re happy about everything and feel invincible because of your newfound sobriety. Although the pink cloud feels good, it can give you a false sense of security.
After six months, you should be aware of your triggers in sobriety. Certain people, places and things might remind you of when you used to use substances, and you should work to avoid these things. Eventually, you may be able to be present and sober in situations that used to tempt you, but it’s best not to take chances in the beginning.
At six months, you’ll also get your clarity back and begin to like being sober. Six months was the turning point for me — it was when I thought that I could really get used to this sobriety thing.
One year of sobriety
When you get to one year of sobriety, you’ll breathe a sigh of relief. One year is a major feat, and you should be proud of yourself — you’ve gone 365 days without a drink or a drug! When I reached one year, I was happy and I felt accomplished. I knew that I could do something difficult and let go of substances that used to rule my life.
I believe the one-year mark was when I began to truly discover who I am as a person. I embraced my new sober identity, and I lived through events I never thought I could endure without drinking.
After a year of sobriety, you might graduate from a sober living facility and go on to build a happy, healthy life with your family and friends. In addition, you’ll have built a support system through counseling, 12-step meetings or other recovery groups. Achieving one year of sobriety gives you hope that you can have continued success in your new, sober life.
The one-year mark was when I knew sobriety was for me. I knew I wanted to continue on this path, and each year it has only gotten better. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it. The first year of sobriety will be the hardest but also the most rewarding, and it will help you feel like a new person in a new world of possibility.